Women of Aviation Worldwide Week 2018

Written by Cathryn Lawrence, Office Manager, Mitchinson Flight Centre

It is Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week — and this year, we have more to celebrate than ever before!

2018 is the 8th Women of Aviation Worldwide Week; a global awareness week for girls of all ages aims to foster gender balance in the air and space industry. Mitchinson’s is excited to celebrate the successes of our largest group of “WOAW-ies” yet, with a fourfold increase in female enrolment and flight training in direct comparison to 2017! We are also proud to have Kassia Clarke, a WOAW-ie student featured in our article last year, officially join our staff as a Flight Instructor in April 2017.

This week is dedicated to Women of Aviation Worldwide – and we are proud to showcase some of our very own!


Well-known at Mitchinson’s is former owner of 34 years, Janet Keim. Not one to retire, she is still involved in specialized flight training and is an approved flight test examiner; making her commonly known to all of our students. Becoming a pilot in the early 1970’s — when aviation was a heavily male-dominated industry — means that Janet is an invaluable mentor in helping the next generation of women get involved in aviation. “In today’s world, women can become what they want and excel at it just as men can,” Janet says. “There is no career that is not open to both.  In the past that was not as transparent, there were always a few good women in aviation – but they were the exception, it was a male dominated career since the beginning of flight.”

Now in 2018, that is starting to change — we have not only seen an increase in women starting their flight training at Mitchinson’s, but have broken a company record!

“Women bring a slightly different perspective to any task or job or career and that is not a bad thing,” Janet responded when asked about the importance of introducing more women in the industry.  “Some of our strengths such as being organized, practical, and task-focused complement male strengths. Make the most of everyone’s strengths and in doing so, lessen the weak areas.”

In regards to being asked about the importance of her mentoring and being involved with the upcoming female generation of pilots, she keeps it truthful. “Everyone needs to be able to rant to someone else who will listen, agree (to a point) and provide advice.  Easier to rant to another older female than to a male.” However she doesn’t pigeon-hole mentorship to just women as she continues: “That said, both men and women getting into any career can benefit from mentors.  Experienced people in any industry who are passionate will be mentors as they care about the continuing good health of their industry.”

“From my first discovery flight to my CPL training, Mitchinson’s has been there for all my aviation needs. The instuctors are willing to help, the owners are involved and Janet is so knowledgeable about aviation. I feel at home when I arrive for a flight at Mitchinson’s.” – Sophia Hagen


The thought of becoming a pilot wasn’t an instant decision for some of our students. “It was my husband who gave me the extra push to get into flying,” said Bonnie Bilskie. “I’ve always loved being able to prove that women are capable of doing a lot of the same things that are ‘traditional’ to men, and flying is another check mark on that list!” For Brittany Varga, who was introduced to aviation as a child (their family cabin being only accessible by float plane) decided to take the plunge last spring. “I always wanted to be part of the industry but never thought I could be the pilot,” she said. “All of my friends and family encouraged me, and finally I called up Mitchinson’s and they said “ground school starts next week”. I said, “sign me up!” and I haven’t looked back since.”

For others, it was a no-brainer. Viktoriya Galunka remembers having her eyes to the sky ever since she was a little girl. “I never missed a plane fly by – I always had to watch until it left my sight,” she said. “I wished that one day I could try and feel it for myself. On my seventeenth birthday my parents surprised me with a discovery flight, that’s when I got hooked!”.  Sophia Hagen, currently completing her CPL, was drawn to the breakout from the norm – “I didn’t want a regular ‘desk job’, I didn’t want to be stuck in an office all day. Also, the challenge of becoming a pilot is intriguing. We are constantly being evaluated, so we have to push ourselves to the limits.”

“Mitchinson’s has always made me feel welcomed and answered all my questions honestly and with knowledge. I chose Mitchinson’s because my dad got his commercial license through [Mitchinson’s], and has kept a relationship with them throughout his career.” – Samantha Campling


“When I was choosing a school, there were many choices across Canada. As I started asking other pilots, they all recommended Mitchinson’s to me. Everyone told me that it’s the best flight school in Canada, I can say it’s totally true. The school has a great atmosphere for learning and being the best you can be. I am very glad that this is my school.” -Viktoriya Galunka


It’s not all chasing clouds and rainbows – being a pilot takes hard work and dedication.  “Flying must be your passion to be truly successful,” Janet says. “Working Christmas Day is going to happen.  Flexibility is a must for yourself and your family which is fine as long as everyone is on board with it.  But if you have the passion…!”

The Private License needs a minimum of 45 flight hours and the Commercial License needs 200, along with additional ground school and studying. This requires self-discipline and effective time management; definitely a common hurdle to overcome for all students. “The hardest part so far is getting back into the groove of learning after being away from school for so long!” Sara Voth says. The others agreed that making the time to fly and have it work around their schedule was a challenge; as many students have full time jobs, family commitments and/or other post-secondary courses. However, this challenge is well worth the effort: “Don’t be afraid to do something you want to do!” Hermann says.
“If you are passionate about aviation you will succeed no matter how hard it might get,” Galunka encourages. “Always work hard and never forget about your dream. At times it will be difficult and you will get discouraged, but if you keep going and never give up it will pay off in the end.”

The opportunities for jobs in aviation are varied. “Women are entering all areas of the aviation industry,” Voth says. “Pilots, flight operations, aircraft maintenance engineers, ground handling, dispatch, air traffic control and ramp operations. There are so many opportunities to get into the industry. If you are interested in flying, go for a discovery flight – you’ll be hooked!” (For more information on Discovery Flights, click here).


“Is there any other choice?” asked Voth. “Everyone I have ever talked to has always recommended Mitchinson’s. Mitchinson’s has trained so many great pilots, has a wonderful training facility and fantastic staff!” Choosing a flight school should be a careful decision, weighing factors such as their training structure, aircraft and instructor availability, costs, and reputation.”Initially I chose Mitchinson’s because the reputation was so well known around the city!” Bilskie says. “I have come to learn why it is so good – the staff are all welcoming and friendly, the instructors know how to put you at ease, and Mitchinson’s always seems to be working on ways to better the programs and opportunities for the students.”


Sometimes the first step is the hardest step. “The hardest part of my flying experience was building up the courage to get started,” Campling says. “Luckily, the instructors and workers at Mitchinson’s always made me feel welcomed and answered all my questions honestly and with knowledge.” The beginning was also a standout memory for Bilskie: “[my standout memory was] my first day walking in for sure! I was so nervous, and the whole thing felt surreal! But the staff were all super welcoming!”

If you are interested in doing your pilots license, click here for a breakdown of how to get started — or give our office a call at 306-244-6714.

“I chose Mitchinson’s because it has always been a name that I’ve heard throughout my time working in the industry. I thought they had a great repertoire and being around so long, a ton of experience. I also heard a lot of great things about Janet!” -Brittany Varga

We guarantee that flight training is unlike anything you have done before!

To wrap things up, we asked our WAOW-ies to share some of their standout memories with us:

“My first solo night flight… The view of Saskatoon at night was gorgeous and is something that I will forever remember.” – Sophia Hagen
“My favorite [memory] was when I was doing steep turns. As I looked out of the window there was a huge eagle below me; when my plane turned, the eagle turned with it. It was a very beautiful moment, it reminded me just how lucky I am to be able to witness such unique things that other people might not see.” – Viktoriya Galunka
“The amazing relationships I have made with so many people… everyone is so helpful and encouraging.” – Brittany Varga
“I will never forget my first solo. Dropping Janet off after a circuit, making the call to ground “solo for circuits”, taxiing to the runway and taking off by myself for the very first time… it was exciting and scary. I will never forget that feeling! I couldn’t stop smiling for a very long time. In fact, I have that same smile every time I get into the plane.” – Sara Voth
“[My standout memory] was my first day walking in, for sure! I was so nervous, and the whole thing felt surreal! But the staff were all super welcoming!” – Bonnie Bilskie
“How great it felt to finally have finished my private pilot’s license. After having to put all my efforts into getting my license, it was nice to have it done and able to take passengers up with me.” – Samantha Campling
“Taking off and landing in a field with Colin on my dual cross country!” – Aimee Scherr
“Stalls and spins were the scariest for sure!” – Lindsey Hermann

We are honoured that such standout individuals have chosen us for their flight training, and are excited to be a part of their future aviation careers. We wish all of you continued success, and we will work our hardest to ensure that you get the quality of training and mentorship that is so well deserved.

Happy Women of Aviation Worldwide Week!

Pictured: (Top row, left to right): Brittany Varga, Moira Hitchens, Sara Voth, Viktoriya Galunka
(Bottom row, left to right): Kayla Knoblauch, Samantha Campling, Sophia Hagen, Victoria Schweighardt, Lindsey Hermann, Aimee Scherr, Janet Keim, Kassia Clarke 


Left: Kassia Clarke, Instructor Rating pass
Right: Sophia Hagen, CPL Flight Test pass


Left: Samantha Campling, Flight Test pass & PPL Completion
Right: Stacy Shymko, Flight Test pass & PPL Completion


Left: Victoria Schweighardt 1st solo
Right: Sara Voth PPL Completion

Left: Viktoriya Galunka 1st solo
Right: Bonnie Bilskie, 1st solo


Left: Brittany Varga, 1st solo
Right: Aimee Scherr, 1st solo

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